Want to improve workplace communication? Do less

If you have underperforming channels, platforms or projects, cast them into the abyss.


When’s the last time you audited your internal communications channels?

Most large companies use a multitude of channels, often adding more as new platforms emerge. Using a varied mix of channels is smart—employees like to consume information in different ways, after all—but beware of communication overload.

In ” Strategy Is Deciding What Not to Do,” Tim Williams describes Steve Jobs’ decision to cancel more than 300 ongoing projects to focus on just four. Williams writes:

By narrowing instead of expanding, Apple started down the path to becoming the most valuable company on the planet.

Our company’s experience mirrors this, although on a vastly different scale. In 2009, we made the commitment to focus only on internal communications for large brands. When prospects or current clients asked for help with consumer branding—a field in which many of us had built our careers—we referred them to other agencies we knew would be a better fit.

The payoff was building a deep expertise in this narrow niche of internal branding. The more we worked with large companies on specific employee communications issues, the more we learned and grew. It wouldn’t have happened unless we took the bold step of saying no to potential business—which is a strong reminder that there’s power in choosing not to do something.

The same can be true for your company’s internal communications mix. Most internal communications departments are stretched mighty thin. When you added a quarterly employee magazine, did you consider retiring the weekly newsletter? Do you still print posters even though you have digital signage? Do you maintain multiple intranet-like sites? Are you still posting stuff on Yammer even though most employees aren’t using it anymore?

Discontinuing channels that aren’t effective or useful is good discipline and good business. Discarding excess projects lets you do better at fewer things, which can improve employees’ experience with internal communications.

By limiting the places and platforms they feel obligated to check, you help colleagues process communications more efficiently and effectively.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin is the CEO of Tribe, an internal communications agency based in Atlanta. A version of this post first appeared on Tribe’s blog.

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